Rat
Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Full article issued by Flinders University.

An ARC supported study, co-led by scientists from Flinders University and The University of Queensland, has revealed that the skulls of rodents resemble each other in any given size, meaning little adaptation seems to be necessary for a rodent to survive in a variety of habitats.

Flinders University Associate Professor Vera Weisbecker, an ARC Future Fellow, who supervised the study says everyone knows rodents all look similar, but researchers expected far more variety in the details of their skull shape when compared to what was found.

“It seems intuitive that a group of animals that displays a wide variety of shapes should be more successful in evolution. However, Australian rodents demonstrate that shape diversity doesn’t always mean evolutionary success. So it really does show if the skull ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Dr Weisbecker notes that the results make an important point in one of the biggest questions in evolutionary biology – why some groups of animals are more diverse than others.

Photo credit: 

Australia’s smallest rodent, the molinipi (Pseudomys delicatulus), considers one of Australia’s largest rodents, the otter-like rakali (Hydromys chrysogaster). They share an skull shape gradient that goes back further than either species’ arrival to their shared continent. Illustration by Alison K. Carlisle /Papadore Illustrations.